Droid, Wii Patent Complaints Investigated

The U.S. International Trade Commission has launched investigations related to two recent patent-infringement complaints brought to the agency, one filed by Microsoft against Motorola for its Android-based smartphones and one focused on Nintendo's Wii gaming system.

The patent holders have asked the USITC to bar Motorola from importing several Android-based smartphones and Nintendo from importing the Wii.

Microsoft filed a patent lawsuit and USITC complaint against Motorola on Oct. 1. Microsoft alleged that Motorola's Android phones violate patents related to Exchange ActiveSync, which syncs e-mail, calendar and contacts between a mobile phone and a software-based computer program.

The nine Microsoft patents named in the USITC complaint include patents for implementing file system names, erasing data in flash memory devices, and mobile-phone software APIs (application programming interfaces), Microsoft said. Android and Motorola's Motoblur user interface, used on smartphones such as the Droid X, Droid 2 and Cliq, violate the patents, Microsoft said in its complaint.

A Motorola spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comments on the investigation.

In the second investigation, Motiva, a video game fitness firm based in Ohio, has accused Nintendo of violating two patents for human movement measurement systems. The patents were issued in November 2007 and February 2009. Motiva's two owners began working on a video game-based exercise and rehabilitation product in October 2003 and filed for a patent in July 2004, the company's lawyer wrote in the Oct. 1 complaint with the USITC.

The inventors "set out to attract investors and bring their new product to market," Motiva's filing said. "Initially, interest was high. But then, in October 2006, Nintendo released its own game and fitness platform the Wii. In the face of the Wii -- a system stunningly similar to the one described in [Motiva's] pending patent application -- they saw plummeting investor interest and stymied hopes of bringing their inventions to market."

Motiva filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Nintendo in November 2008. That case is pending in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. In March, Nintendo asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to re-examine one of the Motiva patents, and in July, the USPTO rejected Nintendo's request for the patent to be invalidated, Motiva said in filings with the USITC.

A Nintendo spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comments on the investigation.

U.S. companies alleging patent infringement by competitors often file so-called section 337 complaints with the USITC in addition to filing lawsuits. Many section 337 complaints result in settlements.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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